Chilmark School HVAC project may generate issues

West Tisbury School roof project near completion. 

The Up-Island Regional School District may need to borrow more money for the Chilmark School HVAC project. — MV Times

The up-Island school committee will need to consider whether to borrow more funds from the towns for the Chilmark School heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system project. 

Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools business administrator Mark Friedman shared with the committee during the Monday evening meeting that work is ongoing to prepare a bid for the final phase of the HVAC project. John Keenan, the owner’s project manager and principal of Keenan + Kenney Architects, has “fleshed out some areas” that needed redesigning by TE2 Engineering “to bid more successfully,” according to Friedman. 

“I’m really trying to push them so we can get to the architects’ fund recommendations, because we have some real work to do on how to bid this project,” Friedman said. 

One part of the project that is facing difficulties is the emergency generator. For planning purposes, the designers needed to figure out how the apparatus fits into the project. “For example, how does the electrical service go from a new generator that has never existed into this building? What will it be? How will it [work] in the building, etc.?” Friedman said.

After electrical engineering work was done to prepare for the emergency generator, Friedman said, Keenan cautioned him “there might not be enough money in the emergency generator part of this project.” Friedman said no final decision was made, and options are being explored, such as using two smaller generators “in parallel,” rather than “one massive engine.” 

“We won’t know until we go out to bid,” Freidman said, adding that the project is currently budgeted at between $1.1 million and $1.2 million. He said if the bids come back over budget, contingencies may be needed to push the project forward: “I’m trying to plan for the what-if.” 

A complication arises from the intermunicipal agreement, in which Chilmark borrowed $950,000 for the committee to fill the funding gap. “Trying to go back to the town of Chilmark to revise the intermunicipal agreement does not seem like a practical option for us, because it takes all three [Up-Island] towns to vote, possibly, to do that,” Friedman said. 

Intermunicipal agreements do not need town meeting votes, but borrowing money does, according to Friedman. Another option is the committee directly borrowing the needed money for the project. 

Committee member Skipper Manter said it might be “easier and cleaner” to go back to the towns for approval. Committee chair Alex Salop pointed out that the process could take longer, and “the price goes up,” and that it might be cheaper in the long run to solve the problem through the committee. 

“It depends on whether we need town meeting approval,” Manter said. 

No vote was taken on this matter. 

Among other capital projects, the West Tisbury School’s roof replacement project is expected to conclude within the next couple of weeks within budget, according to Friedman. 

Chilmark School is pursuing additional funding based on the increase in the student population. The funds would cover hiring a part-time special education teacher. Part of this teacher’s salary would be covered by a $25,000 grant from the state, which the committee unanimously approved. The other project was pursuing funds to increase space for the school with the possible establishment of a universal preschool program. However, this proposal would need to go to the Chilmark select board first. 

The committee voted 4-1 to make Roxanne Ackerman the new chair come February, to replace Salop, who has been in the position for two years. Ackerman was the sole dissenting vote.